km traveled today: 44 km walked! (44 km on day 44) 11 hitched
total TA km: 1111
Our first 40+ km day!!! A very tiring one, indeed. We woke up at the Taumarunui Holiday park and had a nice long breakfast of OSM bars and instant coffee in the warm kitchen with our five new hiking pals. We got away from the holiday park at around 7:30, a late start given our recent history, and started trying to hitchhike the 18 km state highway section into the town of Owhango.
Because 4 people is quite a lot to ask of a passing driver, we split into two groups of two when we try to hitch the highway.
Shepard and I go together because we carry all the parts to our MSR tent, and Jack and Sam go together because they carru the Big Agnes. That way, if we are ever to get separated for longer than planned, each duo has a complete tent to sleep in.
Anyway, Jack and Sam got picked up within about 2 kms of our day. The same cannot be said for Shepard and myself, who spent about 7 km trying to get picked up. Finally, after getting passed by what felt like 100 different cars, we got picked up by Mike and his adorable 3-year-old boy. Shep took the front seat and chatted with Mike, while I sat in back with the little one to talk about high five tricks and batman.
Quickly enough we arrived at the cafe in Owhango where Sam and Jack had been waiting for an hour and a half. From there we decided to kick it into high gear. We had 37 km of walking to do across the 42 Traverse forest trail before reaching another section of highway that would take us to Tongariro Alpine Crossing access. Wanting to see Tongariro in tomorrow’s clear weather, we really wanted to reach the start. Beginning 42 Traverse at 10:00 AM made for a very long day.
42 Traverse was very straightforward. It is a very remote ATV track wide and clear enough to allow for making quick work of the kilometers. Occasional views of the Tongariro Alpine Range in the distance added to our speed, proving how excited we were to see the legendary national park.
After a few hours of the easy stuff, however, the track got pretty brutal. With the start of the Waione-Cokers track came the start of the slippery mud party. Especially later in the day it was hard to stay patient walking up waterslides. The mud was so slick that each step was a big question mark. The gorgeous views of Ruapehu that decorated our morning were replaced by views of the muddy hill ahead.
We made it to the Tongariro HP and decided to camp there given our need to collect enough water to get us through the crossing. All the water in the park is unsuitable for drinking as it is all full of a spooky and mysterious volcanic mineral cocktail.
After warming ourselves around a big wooden table in the warm kitchen, we rewarded ourselves for our huge day with a big cous cous meal. Tomorrow we head into Tongariro, the first truly explosive section of our trail.